People were strung up on wooden stakes as the smoke rose around them, and I could only watch without diverting my eyes. Under the harsh summer sun, with the burning straw beneath them, the people that were in the process of dying could do nothing but scream and scream.
There were other people that were truly enjoying the sight of the last moments of those thrashing about terribly on the wooden stakes. They would sometimes add oil to the fire or douse it with water, seeming to want to prolong the suffering of the victims.
The screams would slow down and gradually stop as what used to be human turned black on the stakes. Before I realized it, there was a horrible stench drifting around me.
At the same time that the heat and stench caused me to vomit reflexively, I heard the sound of raucous laughter next to me. It sounded so out of place at this type of location, that I couldn’t get it out of my head and it agitated me greatly.
I couldn’t take any more of this, and all I wanted to do was crouch up into a ball and close my eyes and cover my ears, but because I was being held in someone’s arms, I couldn’t do so.
Let me go, I desperately tried to say that but I wasn’t able to talk yet, and the adult arm was easily able to hold on to my baby body.
Everything’s a blur. I feel like my head will break with how much it hurts.
The summer heat, the hot air from the fire, the stench, they combined to choke me. My nausea was at the limit of what I could bear, and something traveled up my esophagus as I reflexively vomited. The smell of my own vomit mixed with the stench of burnt flesh and made things smell even worse.
After staring at my own puddle of vomit in a daze for a bit, I slowly raised my head. I wanted to take a look at the person that was holding me. It was almost something instinctive, I’m not sure myself why I wanted to do so. But, after I looked at him, I regretted it from the bottom of my heart.
He had beautiful long black hair, with eyes the color of blood, and he was smiling with an ecstatic expression as he looked back into my eyes.
I realized that he was my own father, and I woke up from my nightmare in my own bed.
In the stifling hot atmosphere of my room, I hurriedly wiped off the sweat dripping down my cheeks. Perhaps it was because of the nightmare though, my hands were cold, and I was shaking badly.
Without even opening my curtains, I left my room. I wanted cool, refreshing air, but even outside it was hot. I’m fed up with this suffocating heat and humidity. I opened the window, and at least some fresh air came blowing in.
It’s currently the hottest summer that I’ve experienced in the Kaldia domain.
There’s been an increasing number of people getting heat stroke in the western part of my domain, we’ve been too busy dealing with that to set up the civil militia yet. Earl Terejia and I have been confined to our rooms dealing with how much work there is, but the servants forced us to get plenty of water and take breaks as well.
The soldiers have begun returning from the eastern village construction project. The refugees have begun moving there in groups of twenty. Since there’s more water in the east, the climate there is milder and I heard from some of the soldiers that they wished they were still there.
Kamil’s still not back at the mansion yet, it’ll be at least two months before things finish and he returns.
I took off my nightclothes that were soaked in sweat, and put on a light tunic and dalmatic. Mrs. Hortensia should probably be helping with breakfast preparations, and she won’t be coming to wake me up. After I turned five, I didn’t need anyone coming to wake me up anymore unless I overslept.
My neck felt sticky with sweat and uncomfortable, and I looked for a maid on my way to the dining hall. Since Phoebe and Isadora are the only maids here, it’s hard to find them during the morning when it’s so busy. I got lucky today though, I found Isadora just as she was taking the laundry back into the mansion.
“Good morning, ojou-sama.”
“Good day, Isadora. Sorry, but please clean my bedroom today as well.”
Those nightclothes have to be washed before I’d wear them again, and my sheets were soaked in sweat as well. Getting a nightmare just because of how hot the weather’s been, I want to improve the comfort of my bed even if it’s only by a little.
Maybe it’s the same for everyone else, the heat’s getting to them, Isadora just nodded and responded in a low voice.
“I understand. Was there anything else you needed of me?”
“After breakfast, I would like to wipe my body down. Please make the preparations for me.”
Isadora nodded again, bowed, then hurriedly walked down the hallway in a busy manner. Getting the laundry is a maid’s job, but actually washing it is the maidservant’s job. Without even needing to take my time and eat slowly, my room will probably be ready with a wash basin and towel.
For once, Earl Terejia, Mrs. Marshan, and even Claudia were all there at breakfast at the same time. Since Elise always took her meals in her room, that means that other than her, just about everyone else was coincidentally in the dining hall right now.
……Come to think of it, I haven’t visited Elise for a while. Recently Elise has been getting better, and she would often be out in the garden during the day, so there’s been no need to visit her room.
Let’s go see her today.
After I wiped myself with the towel that Isadora prepared for me, I arrived at Elise’s room, just when Maya came walking out at a brisk pace.
“Where are you going, Maya? It’s rare to see you not by Elise-dono’s side.”
Since Maya is Elise’s personal maid that she brought along with her, they spend most of their time together. It’s rather unusual to see her going somewhere else by herself especially during the day. Today, rare things keep happening.
“Yes, the earl called for me today.”
“The earl…… I see. I’ll take care of Elise for the time being.”
“Thank you very much. Sorry for the trouble, but please take good care of Elise.”
Maya seemed slightly relieved, and went off briskly again. Since Elise often has coughing attacks, she probably doesn’t want to leave her alone.
And so I knocked on Elise’s door, and heard her saying please come in. Compared to when she first arrived here, it sounded much more energetic.
“Elise-dono, pardon my intrusion.”
Instead of sitting on her bed like usual, Elise was sitting on a chair against the window. Her face was beaming and she was about to stand up, but I motioned her to stop, saying it was fine.
“You seem to be doing well today.”
“……Yes, thanks to this place I’ve become very healthy.”
She was smiling and nodding happily, and I approached her to see what she was up to. I stood next to Elise and suddenly felt slightly shy, as she was looking outside, I spoke up in a quiet voice.
“Yes. From here, I can see the garden, as well as the pond on the other side.”
Looking at the scenery from here, she seemed instilled with energy, and she laughed. Ahh, I made a casual reply, and looked outside as well, and saw the garden and pond that Elise was talking about. It’s the place where I got the poisonous hemlock. Since the pond isn’t a place that the gardener’s required to take care of, there might even still be some there still. Although, when the soldiers were connecting the pond to the water tank for the barracks’ bath, they probably should have gotten rid of any poisonous plants already.
Various types of colorful vegetation surrounded the water, looking at it from a distance made it seem quite pretty. In a well-shaded location, I squinted and saw a tiny grave. So one could also see that grave from here, eh.
“……You shouldn’t be going to the pond.”
“Of course, I know very well. Until I get healthier and more energetic, I won’t go out from the garden.”
I warned Elise as a reminder that the pond was dangerous, but I still saw a longing for the water in her eyes.